BRITISH sailing’s Olympic team manager Stephen Park insists the door is still wide open for all his London 2012 hopefuls as they look to steal a march on each other at the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta.
Nearly 1,200 competitors from 62 nations have descended on the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy, hoping to get some inside knowledge on the London 2012 venue with just over a year to go until the five-ringed shadow descends over the south coast.
And with places at August’s official Olympic test event up for grabs, Skandia Team GBR will be hoping to make the most of home comforts in the penultimate ISAF World Cup event.
But with just one London 2012 spot available to the hosts in each Olympic and Paralympic class, the Brits will be looking to state their intentions to rivals both close to home and abroad.
And Park maintains it is all still to play for in the majority of classes, urging anyone who enjoys a flutter to keep their money in their pockets with the competition too close to call.
‘We have a few classes where we certainly have got incumbent performers, people who are without doubt the favourites,” Park said.
‘For example in the Star, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson would be one of those and we have some regular top performers in the windsurfing but in all of the other events it really is wide open.
‘In the 470 women in particular they have just come back from the last ISAF World Cup sailing regatta where we had a full team in the south of France and we came away with both silver and bronze medals with a new team of Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark who just managed to beat Penny Clark and Katrina Hughes who are currently leading the world cup rankings.
‘So they will be trying very hard and battling it out and it is difficult to say at this stage who will come out on top and that will be a great battle.
‘But that is replicated throughout the fleet as we have the same in the 470 men and the same huge big battle in the 49er with five teams in the top ten in the world.
“So all across the regatta and all events we are going to have some good competition and it would certainly be a dangerous thing to bet on the outcome.’
The fierce competition between the Skandia Team GBR boats is no better displayed than in the Finn class, where the top three World Cup places are occupied by Brits with Ben Ainslie in pole ahead of Giles Scott and Ed Wright in second and third respectively.
Three-time Olympic gold medallist Ainslie might be sitting pretty at the top but with 2010 Skandia Sail for Gold champion Scott and world champion Wright snapping at his heels, Park can’t wait to watch the drama unfold this week.
‘This is certainly a big week for Ben,” Park added. “At this event 12 months ago he had just returned to Olympic Finn sailing from his America’s Cup campaign and he was just pipped to the final post by his teammate Giles Scott.
‘Since then he has been full-time training in the Finn, steadily gaining that form of old that got him the gold medals in both Athens and Beijing.
‘He is certainly sailing very well now and he will be quietly confident but still apprehensive as we have the current world champion Ed Wright, and also have Giles Scott who beat Ben last year.
‘They are both determined to end his Olympic success so it is going to be a great battle.’
Investment specialist Skandia is the principal sponsor of the British sailing team. For more information go to www.skandiateamgbr.com